State Bar Endorses Plan to Boost Number of Family Court Judges

, New York Law Journal


The chair of a taskforce that has been working for two years to find ways to alleviate stresses on Family Court said that while the numbers of judges must increase, the courts could ease the burden by administratively assigning more judicial hearing officers, court attorneys, and referees and support magistrates.

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What's being said

  • Ike Aruti, Esq.

    This sounds very good. The numbers are as follows:

    According to OCFS website statistics, there have been 784,398 hotline reports of child mistreatment (not including mandated reporters,) for the State of New York, for the last 5 years of record, ending 2009. 283,750 were for NYC.
    Each of these results in an investigation by ACS or equivalent agency into a family relationship (which is ostensibly protected from unwarranted governmental intrusion as a fundamental constitutional right.) ACS routinely refers family members, overwhelmingly women, to the Family Courts, sometimes by way of the Volunteer Lawyer's Project, or the like. It has been presented to potential volunteers as a "one stop shop" where housing, welfare, food stamps and VAWA immigration benefits are made available to petitioners. Petitioners are routinely granted Orders of Protection and Custody in ex-parte proceedings without any requirement for objective evidence. ACS also routinely provides Court Ordered Investigations for the Family Court. It would be unreasonable to deny that ACS is an arm of the Family Court, nor that they should be held to some lesser standard of integrity or responsibility.

    OCFS is charged with oversight of ACS. Does this mean they are to help remedy harm caused by ACS agents and procedures, or avoid responsibility for harm they may have caused in the "imperfect" execution of their duties? Would it be improper for Commissioner Carrion to ignore this question? Why would OCFS Counsel identify the content of an investigation of an ACS agent's actions as "protected by Attorney-Client Privilege?"

    OCFS website states: " The New York State Office of Children and Family Services takes false reports of child abuse and maltreatment very seriously. Both the taking of the false report and the ensuing investigation are a misuse of valuable resources intended for the care and protection of New York State's vulnerable or at-risk children.
    According to Section 240.50 of the New York State Penal Law, falsely reporting an incident to the State Central Register is a Class A misdemeanor. If you are the victim of a false report, you should contact your local District Attorney's office to discuss what options are available."

    According to Queens District Attorney Brown's office, there has *NEVER* been an arrest or prosecution in Queens, (or the entire state for that matter,) for violation of 240.50(4). Are we to believe these numbers indicate our child welfare system and Family Court are perfect?

    Should we refuse to consider that the lion's share of these salaries and expenses will be covered by federal dollars? More government at less cost to the state?

    It would be irrational to describe the current child welfare system as anything less than "broken." Such was likewise the conclusion of a study by Sen. John Sampson, where due process of law seems to be described as an administrative inconvenience in the Family Court.

    What I have observed in Family Court is what makes me most ashamed of being an attorney. I have reported my observations and experiences to the proper authorities and government leaders, virtually all of whom refuse to respond in good faith. Does their refusal to act in good faith confer the benefit of plausible deniability? What does the lack of good faith indicate in terms of our government's integrity and ability to responsibly implement so lofty a virtue? The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Personally, I find the facts and figures to be persuasive. I think it is nothing short of pernicious to suggest expansion of this broken system as it is.

    But then again, I could be wrong.

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